are more than random fragments spun from your waking life. Pay them
proper respect and they will reward you with a greater understanding
of yourself and your world as you see it.
I began paying attention to my dreams about
six years ago. I had been dreaming all my life, of course, but my dreams
always seemed to fade from consciousness within an hour or so of waking
(except for the occasional vivid or tiresomely repetitive dream). You
know the ones.
But something important happened to me six
years ago. I began to pay attention, to listen, and to record my dreams.
In the middle of an intense change in my waking life, my dreams became
glittering jewels strung across my confusion, leading me somewhere new.
I considered them a special, if mysterious, gift, and still do.
Many of you are probably hoping for a quick interpretation of last night's
amazing visitation. Dream dictionaries are fun and sometimes helpful
when you are stumped about the meaning of an image or symbol in your
dreams. However, there's something even more important than that. You
need a method more than a dictionary, an attitude more than an answer,
when you work with your dreams.
If you see life as a process of growth, then
your dreams can be viewed as guideposts along the way, pointing out
something you may have overlooked in your haste. Contemplation is in
order! A dream may highlight a conflict or decision you need to resolve.
A dream may tell you that "this one thing" is the the most
important thing for you to do or think about today.
Perhaps your dream is reminding you that there
is a thread of life and meaning running deeper than your daily routine
that you need to grab hold of for a time. One of the most satisfying
type of dreams is a message that you are finally ready to hear. Up it
floats from your unconscious, ready to be integrated with your waking
There are different types of dreams, of course. Prophetic or telepathic
dreams, problem-solving dreams (aha!), recurring dreams, lucid dreams,
nightmares, and others. However, a good general rule is that the majority
of your dreams, over time, are about you: your worldview, conflicts,
fears, loves, and progress through life.
Your dream may be very specific and down-to-earth
about something going on right now in your life. Or you may have a dream
that requires a bird's-eye kind of perspective, as if you are
looking at the events from a great height or with the perspective of
a lot of human history behind it (or a lot of your history
behind it). As you follow your dreams over time, you'll begin to
understand what each dream requires of you.
people, animals, and objects
in your dreams
Often, the people in your dream represent qualities, not the literal,
actual people represented. If you dream about a particular movie star,
should you assume you have a crush on that person? Not necessarily!
Some movie stars play a particular type of character over and over again,
so your dreaming mind can point to that person symbolically and you
know what personality, character trait, or situation is being alluded
Animals or favorite pets may begin appearing
in your dreams and may represent a part of yourself in the action of
the dream, a way of being. Some of us identify strongly with our beloved
pets! Animal symbols
have been important in every human culture, from heraldry to astrology
to totems. We have even created mythical animals like unicorns or griffins
or the phoenix to help us understand our lives more fully. Again, think
in terms of qualities or character traits symbolized by the animal.
Pay close attention to the setting of your
dream. It offers a context for your dream and provides valuable clues
to its interpretation.
Is there activity in the dream relating to
an object? An ordinary, everyday object may symbolize a more complex
concept. Think about it!
a dream journal
So, how do you begin listening to your dreams? Like most profound acts,
it begins with something simple. Keep a paper and pen by your bed. Be
prepared to write, draw or jot notes about what you've seen or experienced
as soon after you wake up as possible. If you experience a kind of half-awake,
half-asleep state when you first get up, so much the better. Take advantage
of it! You are halfway into that other country, dreamland.
When something doesn't make sense, keep writing
anyway. Keep fleshing it out as best you can. Sometimes details will
come forward you thought you had forgotten. In interpreting the dream,
ask yourself questions, and then answer them. Allow your imagination
to guide you here, not your intellect. Usually, the first thing that
comes to mind is the most valuable. Write it down. Make associations.
Be prepared for the unexpected, the illogical, the humorous, even the
If you can remember what was said in the dream
(if anything was), write it down, word for word. It may hold an important
key to your interpretation. If you hear words as you are waking up,
be sure to write them down!
I use the margins to add my own remarks and
interpretations that come up while I'm recording the dream. That way,
I have an accurate record of the dream events AND my first interpretations.
There may come a time when you will interpret your dream differently.
Remember, dreams are slippery things. You are not in the land of one-to-one
correspondences and literal interpretations. Symbols are open to interpretation
and context is highly important.
You are always the best authority on the meaning
of your own dreams. But if you're having trouble understanding a dream
and you have a trusted friend to talk it over with, do so within the
first few days of the dream while it's fresh in your mind. Sometimes,
the very act of talking the dream over will help you break through a
block you've had in understanding it. Pick a friend who thinks like
you do and who's a good enough listener to let YOU work it out.
up in this area
- Why dreams are
important to the creative process and how can you use them. What various
people and cultures have to say about the origin of dreams. More about
Freud and, most especially, Jung.
- More poetry
and other works based on dreams.
more about symbols